Giants not planning to overhaul bullpen

Club will address need for closer in offseason

Giants not planning to overhaul bullpen

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants do not feel compelled to make widespread personnel changes in the bullpen, which struggled throughout the 2016 season, though obtaining a closer or naming one from within the organization is an apparent priority.

During the ballclub's annual season-ending news conference Thursday at AT&T Park, key members of the Giants' braintrust still seemed to be reeling from Tuesday's 6-5 loss to the Chicago Cubs, which ended the National League Division Series. Lacking a reliable closer, Giants manager Bruce Bochy used five relievers during the ninth inning in a fruitless effort to preserve a 5-2 lead.

"We'd like to be playing baseball right now," club president Larry Baer said, speaking at an hour when the Giants would have been preparing for Game 5 of the Division Series at Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Larry Baer on Giants' efforts

"It hurts not to be playing tonight. There's no getting around it," Bochy said.

Chicago's four-run rally was almost unprecedented, heightening the magnitude of the Giants' collapse. Up to that point, according the Elias Sports Bureau, teams taking a three-run lead into the ninth inning in postseason games were 824-3.

The Giants believe that they possess a decent nucleus of young relievers with lively arms, such as Hunter Strickland, Steven Okert, Josh Osich and Derek Law. Will Smith is virtually certain to return, and veterans George Kontos and Cory Gearrin could provide stability.

Asked if the Giants needed to "overhaul" the bullpen, general manager Bobby Evans said, "I think we've got a good core there ... 'Overhaul' would be a tremendous overstatement."

However, nobody denied the need for a closer. The Giants blew 30 regular-season save opportunities, more than any postseason qualifier since the save became an official statistic in 1969. That total included nine blown saves in games when San Francisco led entering the ninth inning, as well as nine blown saves in September.

"You'd like to know going into Spring Training who's going to pitch the ninth, if possible," Evans said. "... The bullpen performs at a much higher level when you know who your ninth-inning guy is."

"You could be in a better situation than we were in," Bochy said.

Evans said that the Giants will explore all available means -- free agency, trade or promoting a pitcher from within the organization -- to add a closer. As this season's non-waiver Trade Deadline approached, the Giants realized the difficulty of engineering a deal for a closer. As executive vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean pointed out, teams with a big arm to spare asked in return for combinations of players possessing exceedingly high value.

Potential free-agent closers include Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Wade Davis and Mark Melancon. The Giants explored trading for Davis and Melancon this year. Before they attempt to shop for a closer, the Giants might want to review the folly they endured the last time they tried this. Two words: Armando Benitez (45 saves in 59 chances from 2005-07 after signing a reported three-year, $21 million deal).

Among the incumbent Giants, Law is said to possess a closer's demeanor, while Strickland long has been touted as a potential relief ace.

Sabean on Giants' offense

Also, San Francisco's transition to 2017 began with the announcement that third-base coach Roberto Kelly and first-base coach Bill Hayes were relieved of their respective duties.

Giants' base coaches relieved of duties

The remainder of the coaching staff will remain intact, though bench coach Ron Wotus might receive an interview from the Rockies for their managerial opening.

Noteworthy outtakes from the news conference included:

• The club's willingness to negotiate a contract extension with ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who's tied to an exceedingly club-friendly contract that will pay him $11.5 million next year. The Giants hold $12 million options on his 2018 and 2019 contracts.

"We want to make sure Madison is here for the long haul and when his camp is ready to address this, we're available," Evans said.

Baer called Bumgarner's value to the organization "incalculable."

• Baer says financial resources again will be available if the Giants sense the urge to spend heavily on a particular free agent or two. Last offseason, they made commitments totaling approximately $250 million to starters Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and center fielder Denard Span.

• The outlook for left field is a question, since free agent Angel Pagan is unlikely to re-sign with the Giants. Evans said that though the club will consider free-agent and trade options, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson likely will top the list of potential Opening Day outfielders. Evans noted that both have been projected to develop greater power potential than ex-Giants farmhand Adam Duvall, who hit 33 homers for Cincinnati this year.

Bochy on Giants' motivation

• Bochy dispelled fears about his health. He was hospitalized for a night in August at Miami with an irregular heartbeat and he needed two stents inserted in his heart in February 2015.

"Trust me, I'm fine," a grinning Bochy said. "My health really has nothing to do with the stress of this game. ... I'm hungry to get back to the World Series."

Matt Cain's projected bid to return to the starting rotation is another offseason issue. A host of injuries have limited Cain to an 8-19 record in the last three seasons, but he'll compete with Ty Blach for the rotation's fifth spot.

"We look at ourselves as having six viable starters going into Spring Training, and we'll let that play out," Evans said. "But Matt Cain obviously has meant a lot to the organization. I associate his name with every one of these championships in different ways. ... Matt is such an important part of this franchise. We have to be mindful of how we put that rotation together."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.